September 16, 2014
In June, Reinvent Albany joined a coalition of environmental and sustainable transportation advocacy groups who oppose using $511m in state and federal clean water loans for construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. In a series of letters, the coalition asked the boards of the State Thruway Authority and the state Environmental Facilities Corporation not to take funds from the EFC’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which are intended for water quality protection and waste water treatment. Today, the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2 office rejected the diversion of $481m of these dedicated clean water funds, while approving $29.1m. The clean water funds are a mixture of federal grants and repaid clean water loans, and state officials have contested EPA’s authority over the funds. Below is EPA’s letter to the state Thruway and EFC.
EPA Decision on Tappan Zee Loans
September 12, 2014
Despite Federal Indictments, State Senators Win Primaries
Three New York Senators – Thomas Libous, John Sampson, and Malcolm Smith – entered the primary election on Tuesday facing federal criminal charges. Despite these legal troubles, both Libous and Sampson managed to win their races by safe margins – 28 points and25 points respectively. Smith, on the other hand, lost by more than 50 percentage points in a landslide. While it remains to be seen whether Libous and Sampson will win in the general election this November, the primary this week showed that the presence of pending criminal charges can be is not necessarily a death knell for New York legislators seeking reelection. Gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout made Albany corruption a primary campaign issue and garnered 34 percent of the vote, the highest of any primary challenge to a sitting governor since primaries were instituted in 1970. Read more…
September 5, 2014
Small Donations Fueled ‘Wide-Open’ Elections Last Year
A report by the New York City Campaign Finance Board shows that the city’s 2013 elections were “the most wide-open” since the city’s small-donor matching system was put in place 25 years ago. The report, “By the People: The New York City Campaign Finance Program in the 2013 Elections,” shows, among other things, that: the number of candidates participating in the public-funding system in 2013 remained high; more than two-thirds of all New York City contributors gave $175 or less; and more than 90 percent of the total raised came from individual contributors, rather than from PACs or unions. While the level of outside expenditures in 2013 was also high, the CFB says that its disclosure requirements – which were recently tightened further – reduced the influence of dark money in the city elections. The CFB report demonstrates the benefits of a public matching system for small donors, supporting the view that the New York City system could be a valid model for the rest of the nation. Read more…
September 3, 2014
A whopping 83% of New York State voters say “government corruption is a very or somewhat serious problem.” The Governor’s Moreland Commission wrote in its December 2013 preliminary report that New York is suffering from an “epidemic of public corruption that has infected this State” and “it is clear already from the Commission’s ongoing investigations, the (political) system itself truly is “all about how much.”
Unfortunately, nothing seems to be changing. This is a state election year, but concerns about corruption do not seem to be influencing any major races. Maybe this is because the public doesn’t really feel the cost of corruption. Nobody has put a dollar figure on how much corruption costs New York tax-payers in higher taxes and bad public services. Maybe New York can learn from the anti-poverty group One.org’s new report “The One Trillion Dollar Scandal” which calculates the cost of corruption to the developing world at a trillion dollars a year, and 3.6 million deaths due to disease and poverty. What does corruption cost New Yorkers?